Everything You Need To Know About Malta Before Arriving
Here are the answers to all your FAQs
Cover Photo: Michele Agius / Instagram
1. Is Malta really that small?
Yes. It's 27km long and 14.5km wide, with 196.8km of coastline in Malta and 56.01km of coastline on Gozo. The islands cover a total of 316 km².
Without traffic (which is a problem from 7:30am - 9:00am and 5:00pm - 7:00pm) it shouldn't take you more than 40 minutes to drive across the whole island.
2. Do you have [basic technology] there?
Yes we have WiFi, cars, electricity, 4G, Netflix, Spotify - the works. If it's a 'modern' commodity, and as long as it's not Starbucks, just assume we have it.
3. What's the weather like?
The summers are, unsurprisingly, very hot. We're talking 35°C for weeks on end. The winters are decently cold (mostly due to strong winds), but short-lived. Also - we don't do spring or autumn, we're bi-seasonal that way.
Also: we get like 300 days of sunshine - which is pretty neat.
4. How many islands are there?
There's also smaller ones like St. Paul's Islands, Cominetto, Fungus Rock, Filfa.
5. What languages do you speak there?
We speak Maltese (our national and official language) and English (our second official language).
Most people also learn a third language at school, and will have a basic grasp of it (most commonly Italian, which most people over 40 can speak with decent fluency).
6. What does Maltese sound like?
Maltese has a heavy Semetic (Arabic) influence and we share a lot of our vocabulary with the Arabic language (so much so that for the most part, they can understand us. We have some difficulty understanding them due to the speed with which they speak). But its claim to fame is that it is written with Latin letters.
We also have Italian, English and French words thrown into the mix.
7. Where should I live?
There's no real answer to this, but firstly - no matter where you live, you're never really that far from anything (bar traffic peaks).
If you're looking to party:
Paceville in St. Julian's is where the main nightlife scene is at. This means living in Sliema (which also has a calmer nightlife of bars and coffee shops), St. Julian's, Swieqi, Pembroke or even some parts of San Gwann are perfect for you.
Bugibba also has a lot of bars and a few clubs (mostly full of tourists or expats). If you're looking for a more toned down 'pub' night out - living in Bugibba or Qawra should be your choice.
If you're looking to swim:
Your options are immeasurable. Sliema, St. Julian's, Bugibba, Qawra, Mellieha, Marsaskala, Xlendi (Gozo), Marsalforn (Gozo) are all excellent choices.
If you're here to study:
Msida is probably closest to University, but prices there may be jacked up due to its proximity to the University. San Gwann is a good option that very few consider, and it's still just a 10-15 minute walk to Uni.
Central locations like Birkirkara, Naxxar, Mosta, Gzira and San Gwann are also great for people who need to commute around the island.
If you're here for a cultural visit:
Valletta is the place to be. Rent an apartment there and enjoy walking throught the historic city (and Europe's Culture Capital for 2018) with easy access to public transport to basically anywhere on the island.
8. What's the food like?
Delicious, and probably more fattening than it should be. Our staple fast-food is the famous pastizz which is layers of special, buttery, pastry stuffed with ricotta or pea-mush. Trust us on this one, they're divine.
9. How's the nightlife in Malta?
As we've mentioned above, Paceville and Bugibba are the two places to be for consistently fun nights out. They're packed with bars and all clubs are free (with most places also having great offers on drinks all night long). If you're staying in Gozo keep in mind that things are a lot quieter, but Marsalforn is probably your best bet.
Quieter spots (think more wine bars, less stripper poles) include Valletta's Strait Street, the Valletta Waterfront, Birgu Waterfront, Sliema, Naxxar and Rabat.
10. Is it safe?
We often brag about how extremely safe it is to live in Malta, and comparatively it is very. But do keep in mind that 'petty' crimes like theft are a thing that happen (particularly in places like Paceville). So keep an eye on your belongings, and avoid walking away from the dinner table with your mobile still there (pretty basic stuff, really).
That being said, there are no 'dangerous' neighbourhoods, and heavier crimes like murder are a very rare occurrence, usually reserved for internal disputes.
11. Are the people very religious?
A lot (like a solid 90%) of the older generation (think 60+) are very devout Catholics, and almost everyone on the island grew up with in a religious household (with varying degrees of piety).
A significant percentage of the younger generation have moved away from the church, however those who are still practicing Catholics aren't the Bible-bashing, pitchforks and torches kind of devotees. Sure, there will be a heated argument or two on social media or newspaper comment sections, but you're unlikely to face outright hostility. You will draw in a few stares if you're visibly not a local and/or outwardly LGBT+.
12. What's the history of the place?
Simple answer: infinite. Seriously, there's too much to cover in one post. But to summarise, we have temples thousands of years older than the Pyramids, Roman and Phoenician remains, most of our fortified cities were built half a millennium ago (and are still being used today) and we've been ruled by just shy of 15 empires.
We're completely independent now, but the influences on our art, architecture and culture are always impressive to check out.
13. How can I get around?
As a country, we are obsessed with our cars. Not in a 'omg I love that car' kinda way, more that we cannot imagine living without being able to drive. You'd think on such a small island, everything would run smoothly with public transport, but we're lazy so it doesn't.
It's good to keep in mind that at times traffic can get pretty hectic, and buses can be notoriously unpredictable with their schedules (we're Mediterranean after all). There is now a Tallinja app, which gives you a rough estimate of when your bus is arriving at your stop, but this too is not without glitches.
14. What are the everyday life costs?
To give you a rough idea of what it's like here are a list of common prices that you can compare with what you're used to:
A pizza from most restaurants will cost between €7 - €10. A good plate of pasta will set you back €9 - €15. A cappuccino from a cafe will cost between €1.20 - €1.50 and a McDonald's meal costs around €7.
Unless you invest in a bus pass, a one-way journey on public transport will set you back €2, while a cab from the airport to most places is €20 - €25. Calling ahead and booking services like eCabs might be a more reliable bet than the white cabs.
Some museums have free entrance, but the rest will cost €5 - €15, with discounts for students and the elderly. The ferry ride to gozo is €5 for passengers and €15 for anyone going up with their car.